Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday cautioned Palestinian voters, who will choose a parliament this week, that terrorism is not a pathway to peace.

With the Islamic militant Hamas party running neck-and-neck with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party before Wednesday's balloting, Rice said it does not work to have "one foot in terrorism and the other foot in politics."

"The United States won't change its policies toward Hamas," Rice said, implying the Bush administration would not work with a Palestinian government dominated by that party.

Referring to potential peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel, she said, "It's hard to have negotiations with a party that you do not recognize its right to exist."

Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department. The radical group has taken responsibility for many attacks on Israel.

The Fatah movement, once headed by the late Yasser Arafat and now by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, is competing with Hamas for a majority of the 132 seats in a Palestinian parliament.

Neither Rice nor State Department spokesman Sean McCormack explicitly ruled out dealing with a Palestinian government in which Hamas played a significant role.

Rice said since Hamas had not renounced violence and was a terrorist group, that would be "a very practical problem."

"If we indeed do want a path to peace between Israel and the Palestinian people it is going to have to be one in which Palestinians and any Palestinian government are committed to a peaceful path," Rice said..